Notes on Seeing Men # 1: Will Men Stand My Gaze?
After a decade of zooming in on women's inner lives and relationship to body, image, sexuality, autonomy and self-expression with my camera, I'm finally ready to turn the lens on men. Because I'm curious about men. Because I wish to balance the yin with the yang and integrate my perspective on the masculine and feminine.
Why now? For a long time I denied photographing men, unless he expressed a desire and curiosity to see himself like the women did. After one too many calls from wicked guys who wanted me to be part of some sort of sexual innuendo, I simply decided to steer clear of the charged terrain and focus on creating a safe space for women - Lolo's Boudoir.
But life (or is it our soul?) has a way of letting impulses show us where we are headed...
On a recent photo shoot in the woods, a tourist showed up on the trail to photograph the water fall, my client was contemplating diving into. Rather than making him feel like intruder (after all, the woods weren't mine), we talked to him. He was genuinely curious why my client wanted me to take photos of her in nature.
We invited him for a quick dip and a photo capture, so he could try for HIM Self. There we were, 3 Europeans frolicking in Californian nature. The moment felt auspicious.
Upon showing him his photo, I asked him to write a bit about his experience:
"What was I thinking? Not too much right there and then. Well, first I just wanted to take a picture of the water fall, and then I saw your client. I had no idea what was happening, but you invited me to walk by, so I did and then I understood what was happening. If I had been alone and knew no-one would come by, I think I would have jumped in that Pool.
The fact that you two were there, gave me the impression it was a save spot to skinny dip, except that you were there. But with your camera, the whole situation was different. By taking pictures, you turned nudity into art instead of something gross or sexual.
I think men are as self-conscious as women.
Hoping my four hour bike ride hadn't shrunk certain parts too much. I knew the water was going to do that. Later I hoped I tucked in my tummy, should have waxed my back, maybe lost a couple of pounds... sounds a lot like a woman I guess. With movies like Mike XXL and the advertising industry, men are also subject to a unattainable-perfect-body image.
I don't believe women really like 'dad-bods'. And I have to fight that dad-bod every day. The only sad thing is, that un-perfect women are still beautiful, but un-perfect men are just plain ugly."
With his permission, I shared all on Facebook and a long thread unfolded, both men and women appreciating the man's vulnerable sharing and seeing that men have body image issues going on just like women.
So here goes, the Seeing Men Project:
I'm ready to See Men and hold (non-sexual) space for their vulnerable, unguarded and artistic explorations.
Who is the modern man? What is the inner fabric of men?
How do they relate to their body, image, sensuality and self?
What facets of themselves might they feel drawn to express? What feeling would they want to impress?
And more so: Will men 'get naked' with me, literally and metaphorically, to contemplate their own nudity? Drop the stereotypes and dare to show up for the self-discovery?
Do men even need to to learn the Art of Seeing and Being Seen?
Please share your thoughts.